Netflix: OZ Market Set To Get High Dynamic Range Content This Year
The Company who has 4K content available on their network is set to introduce High Dynamic Range content to Australian viewers with LG set to be a major beneficiary.
During the opening press conference at 2015 CES, LG announced that it would be working with Netflix in several ways to improve the TV viewing experience.
As part of that effort, Netflix will be providing High Dynamic Range (HDR) streams to LG TVs.
The initiative is notable because HDR streams can significantly improve picture quality with better blacks and whites, which provides a more realistic look.
It also reflects a larger industry trend to add both HDR and wider colour gamut to TVs to improve picture quality rather than just focusing on higher resolutions.
LG also announced that it would support 4K or UltraHD streams to its 4K TV from YouTube. Its 4K TVs already offer UHD streaming from Netflix and Amazon in the USA.
Lambro Skropidis Marketing General Manager at LG Australia said that the new TV’s capable of streaming HDR content will not be available until the second half of 2015.
During the LG press conference, Greg Peters, chief streaming and partnerships officer for Netflix took the stage to announce the addition of HDR to stream to LG and a new initiative, “the Netflix recommended TV program,” which would provide consumers recommendations for TV that provide the best Netflix experience. LG will be the first partner in that program.
During the CES 2015 show there was a lot of discussion about 4K OLED displays and quantum dot technology; but now Netflix and LG is adding HDR to the discussion.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, which essentially means there is a strong contrast between the bright parts and the dark parts of the image. The higher the dynamic range of an image, the more realistic it looks.
When it comes to video, HDR is about making the bright pixels on the screen even brighter, to more accurately represent scenes from outdoors. According to Neil Hunt, chief product officer at Netflix, HDR will create a more noticeable difference to TV viewers than 4K alone.
“With 4K, there are enough pixels on the screen that your eyeball can’t really perceive any more detail, so now the quest for more realism turns into, can we put better pixels on the screen?” said Hunt. “I think that’s actually a more important quality improvement to get to the brightness and detail in the picture than the 4K is by itself.”
Brightness (or luminance) is measured in ‘nits’. Hunt explained that most TVs today have a peak brightness of around 100 nits, whereas the peak brightness of an HDR television is around 1,000 nits – representing a 10-fold increase in the brightness of the highlights on the screen.
This is still nowhere near the brightness of the sun reflecting of a white wall, for example, which is around 10,000 nits. However, it is a substantial improvement compared to current TVs, and delivers a more realistic and engaging picture.
“Bright white clouds still have texture on an HDR screen instead of just being a washed out white patch. More importantly you end up with reflections from water and metal and glass being very bright, and representing the shape and colour of the reflection even more accurately than previously possible,” said Hunt.
More nits require more bandwidth, but Hunt said that delivering an HDR picture only requires about 20 per cent more bits than the equivalent resolution. So 4K is normally delivered in about 15Mbps, while 4K HDR requires 18Mbps; 2K is delivered in 5-6Mbps, while 2K HDR requires 8Mbps.
“Conveniently, 2K HDR fits within a 10Mbps connection that many consumers have at home, so we could see HDR being accessible to people who can’t achieve 4K,” said Hunt. However, he added that “HDR is likely only to be delivered on top of 4K televisions”.
A number of 4K TVs with HDR capabilities were on display at CES 2015, from the likes of Panasonic, Samsung, LG and Sony. All of these TVs were prototypes.
The first HDR sets will go on sale in Australia later this year via LG and the technology will become mainstream in a couple of years.
Netflix is working with the newly-formed UHD Alliance to incorporate HDR into the ‘Ultra HD’ standard, along with 4K resolution and an expanded colour gamut, (which means redder reds, greener greens and bluer blues). It is also working with directors and producers to shoot and capture video in 4K HDR.
“The goal we have is that we set up standards and conventions and processes so that what the director sees and what he intends to deliver is exactly what appears in front of the consumer at the end of the process,” he said.
“If you’re a broadcaster or a cable operator, it’s very hard to imagine upgrading to HDR or 4K until there are enough televisions at the other end to be able to receive it. You have to allocate channels, you have to allocate new decoders and all the rest of it. Netflix, because we’re delivering one-to-one, has the capability to deliver even to a very sparse number of users.”
Netflix said it is working on about 60 ‘Original Series’ this year, around 10 of which are big action features that justify doing the work to make them HDR. Marco Polo, an American television drama series about Marco Polo’s early years in the court of Kublai Khan, was the first to be remastered for HDR content.
“The bright patches are extra detailed, extra-bright, the flames still have colour instead of being washed out. If you see fireworks they’ll be coloured instead of just splashes of light. So these are the kinds of things we’re looking for in HDR,” said Hunt.